John Mahama Calls For Reforms In The Financing Of Political Parties

Former President John Dramani Mahama has called for reforms in the financing of political parties to deepen the country’s democracy and ensure that certain elements do not take undue advantage of the country’s governance system.

Some of the recommendations by the former President included public financing of political activities, strengthening the laws that enjoin only citizens of the country to contribute financially to political activities, and political parties declaring their incomes and sources of their incomes.

Speaking at a lecture on political party campaign financing at the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA) yesterday, Mr. Mahama said without reforms, there was the “potential of mortgaging our governance system to criminals”.

He said if the country continued with the current system of campaign financing, the country’s democracy would be “gradually turned into a plutocracy – a country ruled indirectly by a few wealthy individuals.”

Again, he said without cogent and comprehensive reforms of political party financing, the country could gradually become a democracy dominated by political “godfathers”

“Given the huge cost of political activities, wealthy party financiers may take over as political godfathers who determine electoral outcomes,” he said.

Mr Mahama acknowledged that the state already provided some form of support to political parties by returning filling fees to political parties who meet certain criteria.

He said in the past, the state also used to distribute vehicles to political parties based on their share of votes in elections.

According to him, it was important that the state provided more support to political parties because strong and viable political parties were critical in promoting and sustaining the country’s democracy.

He, however, noted that the current financial difficulties facing the country would make it very difficult for the state to increase support to political parties.

“Ghana today is broke. International credit rating agencies have placed us in junk status. Additional state financing can therefore not be a viable option on the table,” he said.

Former President Mahama said in the event the country was well resourced to make the state fund political parties, there was the need for such support to be done in a “bipartisan and inclusive manner.”

“I further recommend that should public funding of political parties be scaled up in the foreseeable future, then, an independent and credible institution must be selected to administer the state resources advanced to political parties.

In that regard, a sharing formula could be established to ensure fairness and specific disclosure requirements on beneficiary parties. This must be complemented by auditing and publication of party accounts.,” he added.

Former President Mahama further said there was also the need to reform the legal regime on political party formation and their financing system.

Such reforms, he said should start with Article 55 of the 1992 Constitution which deals with political parties and the Political Parties Act, (Act 574).

“We must be bold in reviewing the entire framework of our democratic experiment, identifying reform gaps in the legal and institutional framework and push for reforms whether in the Constitution, Acts of Parliament or other legal frameworks that are holding back progress.

We must do so for most of our state institutions and act to mend the growing breach between society and Ghana’s political system,” he said.

Mr Mahama said the country must also ensure that political party financing must be free from corruption.

Such a move, he said, could be done with stakeholders' engagement especially on the platform of the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan (NACAP).

The former President also used the occasion to launch an interactive and smart digital retail fundraising platform to help broaden the scope of his 2024 campaign financiers.

He said the platform was to address dependency on a few funding the campaign.

“There are emerging opportunities for political parties to broaden the source of their funding.

These new opportunities are being driven by technology and in particular, electronic crowdfunding platforms, as are being used in developed countries,” he said.

He said he adopted a crowdfunding technology to promote a more transparent and accessible means to raise funds to execute his 2024 campaign.

He explained that the use of reliable fintech payment systems would push the agenda of promoting citizen participation in the financing of political parties’ activities.

“We did not have to go far in search of such a robust solution because Ghana has a lot of young talented fintech entrepreneurs who have invested so much within the digital ecosystem and have already created a lot of employment opportunities for several Ghanaians,” he said.